Reflections on SA democracy at UFS ‘theologial day’

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Rev Jospeh Pali (left) and Dr Willem Fourie.

This year our South African democracy is 20 years old. How free and democratic is our society? Reflecting theologically on democracy and freedom, different views were expressed at the UFS Faculty of Theology’s theological day on the topic.

On the one hand Dr Willem Fourie, University of Pretoria, stated Malema was not radical enough. On the other hand Rev Joseph Pali, University of the Free State, pointed to the ill legacies African leaders have inherited in South Africa. Both were guest speakers at the event.

“Malema has a point when he talks about freedom and it sounds radical, but is he radical enough?” asked Fourie, ethics lecturer from the University of Pretoria. Julius Malema, currently in his role as leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, continues to be one of the most outspoken proponents of a comprehensive understanding of freedom in South Africa. “However, I argue that he is mistaken in his assumption that the attainment of economic freedom will solve South Africa’s challenges. Freedom requires moral agency for its constructive realisation and faculties of theology and religious communities are some of the most important places where moral agency can be developed”, says Fourie.

People must be liberated from the idea that their worth is measured by economic worth. In the moral resources of all communities there are elements that can be helpful. Communities can unite around the challenges they share. 

Pali, lecturer in Practical Theology at the University of the Free State, emphasised that democracy is not a destination but a new way of life; a truth to be cared for. Unfortunately African leadership has inherited some negative aspects from the legacy of colonialism, slavery and apartheid: lack of respect, cultural divisions and a dependency on help. This will take time to change.

After the first democratic elections many religious leaders felt they could now return to doing “church work”. However, the church must still interact with government. The church should be critical of all political systems with a loyalty only to God, said Pali.

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